It was alarming to hear that a significant number of drivers are still putting themselves and other road users at risk
by continuing to use handheld mobile phones behind the wheel.
In September last year, research by motoring organisation RAC
revealed that the illegal use of handheld mobile phones had reached ‘epidemic’ proportions. Shortly afterwards, the UK Government introduced tougher penalties for the offence, in an attempt to crack down on this type of risky behaviour.
However, new research by RAC has found as many as 9.2 million drivers continue to break the law on a regular basis.
Driver Education Required
“More has to be done to educate drivers that any use of a handheld phone at the wheel is both illegal and presents both a mental and a physical distraction that could ultimately cause a crash and the loss of life,” said RAC road safety spokesperson Pete Williams. “The Government, and indeed all those who campaign on road safety, need to impress on drivers the dangers of being distracted at the wheel and the consequences of using a handheld mobile phone while driving.”
“Drivers need to take more responsibility when they get behind the steering wheel and think seriously about whether choosing to pick up a handheld mobile phone is really worth the risk,” he added.
Hard Core Law Breakers
Among the hard core of drivers who are habitual handheld phone law breakers (15%) there appears to be a significant age divide, with 39.6% aged 25 to 44, 33% aged 45 to 64 and 18.5% aged 17 to 24. Men make up the larger proportion of the hard core with 57.3% compared to women with 42.7%.
When asked why they continued to use a handheld phone behind the wheel, drivers gave a variety of responses:
- ‘It was an emergency’ (cited by 18% – down from 24% in 2016)
- ‘I needed information for my journey’ (17%, down from 21% a year ago)
- ‘I’m in the habit of doing so’ (12%, up from 11% in 2016);
- ‘I can get away with it’ (10%, up from 7% in 2016);
- ‘I didn’t realise it was illegal’ (9%, up from 7% in 2016); and
- ‘Everyone else does it’ (5%, down from 7% in 2016).
Calls for More Action from Industry
Road safety charity Brake
has renewed its call on the mobile phone industry to take action to tackle the problem.
Together with other safety organisations, Brake has written to Android, Microsoft and the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association), urging them to include an 'opt out' driving mode as standard across mobile handsets. The group has urged the industry to do more following Apple's release of its iOS 11 system update, which includes a 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' mode that automatically detects when someone is driving and prevents distracting calls, text messages and notifications.
“The illegal use of handheld mobile phones when driving is a growing menace and a major threat to road safety,” commented, Jason Wakeford, Director of Campaigns for Brake. “Research shows that using a phone at the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a crash.”
“As a society, we have become addicted to our mobiles, but a split second distraction caused by a call, text or notification behind the wheel can be deadly,” he added. “Drivers should always put phones on silent and out of reach in the glove compartment. The mobile phone industry must also play its part, including technology as standard which helps keep drivers' attention on the road, saving lives and preventing serious injuries."
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